MP moves colleagues to tears after revealing she was raped at 14

Michelle Thomson
Michelle Thomson
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An MP has moved colleagues to tears after revealing she was raped at 14, telling the Commons: "I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor."

Independent Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) shared her personal story during a Commons debate focused on UN International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women.

She was comforted by former SNP colleagues at the end of her speech, with Speaker John Bercow visibly moved.

Ms Thomson told the debate: "When I was 14 I was raped. As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me.

"He had offered to walk me home from a youth event and in those days everybody walked everywhere, it was quite common to do that.

"It was early evening, it wasn't dark. I was wearing - I'm imagining, I'm guessing - jeans and a sweatshirt."

Ms Thomson said she knew the area but they went a slightly different way, noting: "I didn't think anything of it.

"He told me he wanted to show me something in a wooded area and at that point, I must admit, I was alarmed. I did have a warning bell - but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.

"To be honest, looking back, at that point I don't think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about."

Ms Thomson added: "It was mercifully quick and I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realised I quite simply couldn't escape - because he was stronger than me, and there was no sense even initially of any sexual desire from him, which I suppose, looking back, again I find odd."

Ms Thomson said her senses were "absolutely numbed", telling MPs: "Thinking about it now, 37 years later, I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind.

"Now, as somebody who is an ex-professional musician who is very, very auditory, I find that quite telling."

She said that afterwards she walked home alone crying, cold and shivering as she was in shock.

Ms Thomson said: "I didn't tell my mother, I didn't tell my father, I didn't tell my friends and I didn't tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me.

"I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant so that would force a situation to help me control it."

Ms Thomson said she felt "ashamed" that she had "allowed this to happen to me", debating internally what had happened.

She added: "I felt I was spoiled and impure and really felt revulsion towards myself.

"I, of course, then detached from the child up to then I had been.

"Although, in reality, at the age of 14 it was probably the start of my sexual awakening, at that time, remembering back, sex was something that men did to women and perhaps this incident reinforced that early belief."

Ms Thomson said her oldest friends must have "sensed a change" in her but she never told them about what happened and she "drifted away" from them for a few years.

She later told a school boyfriend, who was "supportive", adding: "But I couldn't make sense of my response and it is my response which gives weight to the event.

"I carried that guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness for years.

"When I got married 12 years later I felt I had a duty to tell my husband. I wanted him to understand why there was this swaddled kernel of extreme emotion at the very heart of me that I knew he could sense, but for many years I simply could not say the words without crying.

"It was only in my mid-40s that I took some steps to go and get help with it."

Ms Thomson said the rape "fatally undermined" her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth.

But Ms Thomson said despite this she is "blessed" in her life and happily married for 25 years.

She went on: "But if this was the effect from one small, albeit significant, event in my life stage, how must it be for those women who are carrying this on a day by day basis?"

Ms Thomson said she thought carefully before deciding to share her story, adding: "There is still a taboo about sharing this kind of information and certainly for people of my generation - it is truly shocking to be talking in public about this sort of thing."

She said could not bring herself to tell her mother, who died of cancer, about the rape - noting this was "possibly cowardly" but "an act of love" to protect her.

Ms Thomson said she now knows rape is not about sex but power and control - and also a "crime of violence", as she questioned myths of rape perpetuated from a male perspective.

She told the Commons: "These assumptions put the woman at the heart of cause, when she should be at the heart of effect.

"A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone he feels he can control. Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.

"We women and our society have to stand up for each other, we have to be courageous, we have to call things out and say where things are wrong. We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons."

Ms Thomson said she had encountered "other aggressive actions" towards her in business and politics.

She concluded: "One thing I realise now is I'm not scared and he was.

"I'm not scared, I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor."

Mr Bercow thanked Ms Thomson for her speech, noting she had "left an indelible impression on us all".

SNP MPs Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) and Eilidh Whiteford showed their support for Ms Thomson along with shadow minister Sarah Champion and Labour MP Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston).